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Outraged Pakistanis Protest Deadly Cross-Border Attack by NATO

November 28, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Outrage blazed in Pakistan today over a deadly cross-border NATO air raid from Afghanistan. The weekend strike threatened to deepen a growing divide between Washington and Islamabad.

Protesters throughout Pakistan raged against the United States and NATO today over airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two border outposts on Saturday. The chant in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, was, “Whoever is a friend of America is a traitor to the land.”

The Pakistani bases just 300 meters from the Afghan border in the Mohmand agency were hit by helicopters and jets. U.S. and Afghan special forces had reported taking fire from inside Pakistani territory as they raided a Taliban hideout in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials claim the attack lasted two hours, despite their pleas to stop. NATO called it tragic and unintended, but Pakistan shut down two border crossings used to ship tons of war materiel into Afghanistan every day. It also said it was closing a base used by the CIA to conduct drone aircraft strikes — with that, trucks stacked up waiting to transit the famed Khyber Pass.

REHMAT ULLAH KHAN, trucker (through translator): The government of Pakistan ordered us to take this stuff back. They have been bombed. So, in return, they’re just sending it back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The slain Pakistani soldiers were mourned yesterday in Peshawar, with the powerful army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, in attendance. And anger boiled throughout the nuclear-armed nation, as China and Russia expressed solidarity.

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: We take this matter very seriously.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in Washington, the Obama administration scrambled today to contain new damage to the already frayed U.S.-Pakistan alliance.

White House spokesman Jay Carney:

JAY CARNEY: It continues to be an important cooperative relationship that is also very complicated. It is very much in America’s national security interests to maintain a cooperative relationship with Pakistan, because we have shared interests.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, the weekend strikes were the latest in a series of incidents that have taken relations with Pakistan to new lows. In January, a CIA contractor was arrested after killing two Pakistanis in the eastern city of Lahore. In May, the U.S. didn’t inform Pakistan when Navy SEALs crossed the border deep into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden.

And continuing Pakistani support of militants who attack American and NATO forces in Afghanistan has brought sharp rebukes from U.S. officials. For now, both NATO and the U.S. have promised investigations of Saturday’s airstrikes.

In the meantime, the short-term fallout could be severe. Pakistan’s participation in an upcoming conference on stabilizing Afghanistan is in doubt. And intelligence-sharing between the U.S. and Pakistani militaries has been abruptly halted.